Growing Pains: Modified Oil Finishes and Adapting to All Things New

I spent time on the phone with 8 wholesale distributors of wood flooring in the last few weeks trying to get their opinion on a new product line we’re working on.  One aspect we were hashing through was what type of finish to use on this new product.

Based on the buzz I was hearing at trade shows and in industry publications I was certain that these distributors would be happy with the UV-oil that I had originally specified.  To my dismay I was surprised to hear that they loved every other specification I threw out from species, grade, and lengths,  to width, thickness, color, and texture but without exception they asked for something other than the UV-oil coating.

It turns out that their experience selling these products has been a difficult road.  We’ve mentioned before in this conversation how these new finishes in some ways hearken back to the days of the old waxed floors your grandmother cleaned and maintained.   There is no way around the fact that these types of finishes require a bit more attention than the normal Aluminum Oxide infused top coats that the majority of prefinished floors still wear today.

These distributors told horror stories of their retail customers throwing the flooring displays out of their shops because their customers failed to clean the floor properly and made a huge mess which resulted in a huge headache for them.  Even in situations where they felt they had done a good job educating the retailers on the new finishes and new maintenance methods required that information did not get translated down to the user and thus confusion and dissatisfaction was the result.

The trade off on these finishes are pretty simple to understand.  The aesthetic look is much better.  Deeper color, lower sheen, the wood actually looks like wood and not a plastic representation of wood.  But there is more maintenance.  Although, there are two sides to that story as well.  While these new oil finishes do require more maintenance it is also maintenance that a homeowner can do themselves.  Aluminum Oxide infused top coats can only be repaired by professionals.  So Aluminum Oxide top coats need less maintenance overall but when it is required it has to be done by professionals.  Still, I see more and more flooring producers breaking into the market with these new types of finishes so it may only be a matter of time as people adjust their expectations.  My colleague Peter Connor at WD has been promoting their hardwax oil product Stang-Lund which incorporates the Rubio Monocoat finish with some success.  Maybe Peter can chime in with his thoughts.

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6 Responses to Growing Pains: Modified Oil Finishes and Adapting to All Things New

  1. Thank you Sam for this post and bringing the issue to the industry.

    I first became interested in oil finishes about 6 years ago. The beauty and natural look cannot be obtained with polymer finishes. The challenge back then was that I was working with products that required 2-4 coats applied over 3-5 days and the results where inconsistant. In addition the care and maintenance of these products was not for everyone; cleaning with their products (oil in the cleaner that weekly re-oils the finish) and re-oiling the floors yearly. I also found that the dealers were either not being given care instructions, or they were so detailed and difficult that they scared the consumer off.

    In January of 2007 at the Surfaces show in Las Vegas I was walking the floor and saw Rubio Monocoat for the first time. I was told how the product works and shown how it is applied; single coat. In my mind, and from previous experience with other products, my first reaction was one of partial dis-belief coupled with the realization that if it worked it would revolutionize the industry. Over the following months I became convinced of the Rubio’s ease and durability and have been involved with the product ever since. Toward the end of 2008, Rubio Monocoat approached me with an offer to start and operate Rubio Monocoat USA; to promote the product along with developing and training distribution and manufacturing customers.

    I can tell you that early on it was a challenge on two levels;
    1. Industry acceptance – Oil and hard-wax oil finishes have a very different appearance than the poly finishes the industry has embraced over the past 40-50 years. Interestingly consumers and designers loved the finish but manufacturers and local finishers did not think they could sell it; not the case. I have finishers that have been with us for over 4 years that get 80% of their business with product.
    2. Application and care – The oil finishes that were in this market prior to Rubio Monocoat were more difficult to apply requiring days on the job so distributors had very little success in getting finishers to show and use the products; difficult learning curve.

    Since 2008 I can tell you that the industry is changing on both levels. Oil finishes are a very rapidly growning segment of the flooring industry and our product, Rubio Monocoat, is extremely simple to apply and easier to maintian for the customer.

    To see how simple our product is and why we are growing so rapidly, both for site finishing and manufacturing, please visit us at http://www.rubiomonocoatusa.com.
    Select “Maintenance” for a simple overview and understanding
    Select “Purchase” for a list of Dealers and Distributors, all of which would welcome your calls.

  2. samcobb says:

    Patrick thanks for your input. There is no doubt the product provide an aesthetic upgrade over traditional finishes. If you can educate the larger market on the ease of use and maintenance then I’m sure you’ll continue to enjoy an increasing market share.

  3. Scott Avery says:

    I’d like to see more of this product out there. I feel that with the dilemma of white lines and the eventual demise of conversion varnishes, that the only proper finish for a wood floor is going to be penetrating oils. Wider boards and darker exotics are simply a time bomb in the making for waterborne finishes, especially the single component finishes that lack the adhesion of an isocyanate.

  4. samcobb says:

    Scott you are correct that the White Line Syndrome, as it has come to be known, has certainly helped the hardwax oil products come the forefront.

  5. Aaron Roworth says:

    Guys, I have to say that I too had struggled to come to terms with Oil/Hardwax finishes. Since meeting Patrick and being introduced to Rubio Monocoat in 2009, we have slowly seen the acceptance of this product grow in our market. As with all new products, there was a learning curve however, Patrick and Rubio Monocoat were there to help guide us through this period. Today, I have every confidence that if I sell a Rubio finish it will perform. Yes, maintenance is different than the typical urethane floor cleaners, but the advantage the homeowner gains of doing spot repairs is a big selling feature.
    From a guy that was slow to take on an Oil/Hardwax line, I am very happy to have met Patrick and Rubio Monocoat. Their product does work, and I would encourage you to give their product some serious consideration.

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